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A protester walks past a poster with defaced picture of Iraqi politician Assad al-Edani, and Arabic that reads his name and “rejected by the people,” during the ongoing protests, in Tahrir square, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Baghdad: An Iranian-backed bloc in Iraq’s parliament proposed Wednesday the governor of oil-rich southern Basra province as the country’s next prime minister but the nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who want an independent candidate to take over the government, two officials said.

The Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, supported by Iran, had proposed Gov. Asaad al-Eidani for premier.

According to the two officials, President Barham Saleh received a memorandum from parliament which stated that the Iran-backed bloc is allegedly the largest in the house and as such has the right to nominate the next premier. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

Earlier on Wednesday, outgoing higher education minister, Qusay al-Suhail, who had also been rejected by protesters on the streets, withdrew his nomination for prime minister.

Pressure from the demonstrations led Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to announce his resignation late last month. That was after Iraq’s most powerful religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, withdrew support for Abdul-Mahdi’s government.

A deadline to name a new prime minister has been missed twice over disagreements on which is the largest bloc in the parliament following last year’s elections.

There are currently two main blocs — Sairoon, led by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, and Fatah, headed by Hadi Al Amiri. But the numbers in the blocs have continued to change since last year’s elections, with an unknown number of lawmakers leaving some blocs and joining others.

Last Saturday, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court provided guidance in a statement, but stopped short of naming the largest bloc.

It said the decision should be based on parliament’s first session after taking office last year. But the court also said it would accept if two or more lists had merged to become the largest bloc.

The same day, President Saleh sent the court’s response to parliament, asking the legislature to say which is the largest bloc.

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A picture of an anti-government protester who was killed. Image Credit: AP

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Diwaniyah, an activist who was wounded last week in a bomb attack died of his wounds late Tuesday. Following the news of his death, protesters attacked some offices of Iran-backed political parties in the city.

Iraqi anti-government protesters again hit the streets Wednesday, angered by an activist’s death and an attempt on the life on a popular TV satirist.

The latest rallies in Baghdad and cities including Basra and Karbala came after a night of unrest that saw protesters torch the headquarters of two pro-Iran militias in the country’s south.

The demonstrators have rallied for almost three months to demand the ouster of the entire political class that has run the oil-rich yet poverty-ridden country in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion which overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein.

The mostly youthful activists accuse Iraq’s leaders of enriching themselves, mismanaging the economy and being beholden to powerful neighbour Iran, an influential actor in Iraqi politics.

Passions were inflamed when popular TV satirist Aws Fadhil was targeted Tuesday by unknown assailants, with three bullets hitting his car.

Fadhil posted footage of the bullet holes on social media and declared: “They are targeting those who support the revolution, to silence them ... But we are continuing our revolution.”